Air ambulance flight means I can still walk says horse rider seriously injured in fall
Eleven years ago on 30 August, Cassandra Jameson was a patient flown by Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance after she suffered severe spinal injuries when she fell off a horse during a riding lesson in a remote location.
It was vital for a successful recovery that she had the smoothest and quickest transfer to be treated at the Royal Derby Hospital. The flight took just nine minutes.
“I am eternally grateful that I was flown in the helicopter as by land ambulance it would probably have been a very different outcome. Thanks to the air ambulance I am able to walk again and I’m not in a wheelchair,” she says.
Cassandra (44) – an experienced rider – enjoys an active lifestyle today and knows that things could be very different now.
“Almost every day I do something and think that there was a good chance I may not have walked again. It is thanks in huge part to the air ambulance that I still have a normal life and can do the things I enjoy,” she says.
This includes riding, walking her dog, diving on a Caribbean holiday to mark her 40th birthday and a recent career change to work in the health care system with a view to becoming a midwife.
“Many of these would have been impossible or downright difficult if I had been unable to walk,” says Cassandra.
It was August Bank Holiday 2009 when she was having a show jumping lesson at a riding school in Sherwood Forest.
She was attempting a combination fence of three jumps in a row when her horse refused to go over the second one and Cassandra fell off.
“The horse went one way and I went another. I leant forward to get my feet out of the stirrups and landed in a sitting position on the ground. I was very badly winded but not in pain. I had feeling in my legs but not around my torso, which was worrying,” she says.
The impact of the fall badly compressed Cassandra’s spine and she sustained a fracture to her L1 vertebrae in the middle of her back and damage to three vertebrae in her neck.
Due to the seriousness of the spinal injuries and the remote location of the accident, the air ambulance attended.
Cassandra was made comfortable and placed on a stretcher to keep her stable during the quick flight to hospital.
After being assessed by doctors, she underwent a six-hour emergency operation to repair her spine with a vertebral body stent and kyphoplasty. Amazingly she was up and walking later that day and discharged from hospital after a week.
“We didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk again until after the operation so it was a great relief when I did. It could have been a very different story,” she says.
It was six months before Cassandra was well enough to return to work and she had to undergo a gruelling regime of physiotherapy to get to that point. During her recovery, she did some fundraising for various charities, including DLRAA, whilst flat on her back. For this dedication, she was presented with an award by the local radio station where she lives in Lincolnshire.
“I will forever be a supporter of the local air ambulance charity – without it, I would not have had many of the life experiences I have enjoyed since my accident,” she says.